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Drilling Regulations: O&G Panel will say no to DEP

Later this month and into September, the state Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) oil and gas advisory boards will be meeting to view the DEP’s final version of revised drilling regulations.  However, one board has already stated it will not approve the final draft.

The board consisting of representatives from Pennsylvania’s conventional oil and gas industry has already written to the DEP’s chief oil and gas regulator stating they will not approve the revised rules to move on to the next stage of the approval process.  The Conventional Oil and Gas Advisory Committee (COGAC) was created back in March and was meant to provide Pennsylvania’s traditional drilling division with more input on DEP’s revisions.

As reported by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “The five voting members of the committee met in June and found that ‘we are in full agreement that the vast majority of the proposed changes are unnecessary and inappropriate, and the process for promulgating the rule for Conventional Oil and Gas wells is fundamentally flawed and cannot be cured,’ they wrote.  The committee’s vote is advisory. While it will be considered by the board of elected officials, state agency representatives and citizens deciding whether to adopt the new rules, the committee can’t nix the proposal.”

The DEP’s Secretary John Quigley commented on the COGAC’s position:

COGAC’s opposition will not hinder the progress of the final rule, and I hope when they meet in August that they are prepared to engage with us as we finalize the rule.

In the latest draft of drilling rules, the DEP has proposed revisions that would “strengthen standards for cleaning up spills, identifying underground hazards like abandoned wells, and protecting public resources around well sites, among other changes.”

According to the letter the COGAC sent to the DEP, there are two main reasons why they will not approve the revisions on to the next stage. First, the DEP is unable to provide evidence that it has considered less expensive ways for small businesses or prove there is a need for the proposed revisions for the conventional drilling industry.  The COGAC also said the DEP “did not fully comply with a legislative mandate from 2014 to develop rules for conventional wells separately from unconventional wells, and the department should start the years-old rule-writing process over.”

The COGAC’s letter is the latest attempt the conventional industry had made to prove it is committed to opposing revisions of the rules.  The committee has also stated the revisions would be costly and would end up damaging the industry, which is made of small businesses that are already struggling to survive during the ongoing downturn.

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